If you’ve ever questioned the potential importance of the technology sector to countries’ politics, events in China should cure you of your doubts. protests against the country Strict no Covid policy It first broke out at Foxconn’s factory in Zhengzhou, home to the world’s largest iPhone manufacturing center. These protests are now spreading to some of China’s largest cities, including Beijing, the country’s capital, and Shanghai, home to its financial hub.
Some of the protesters have even called for President Xi Jinping to step down.
This is an unprecedented affirmative measure in modern communist China, where vocal opposition to the government line can often — even routinely — result in significant penalties.
It is, of course, correct to say that the protests come after three solid years of zero-Covid policies, making life across China increasingly difficult, with mass testing, quarantine measures, and sudden lockdowns as necessary disrupting the flow of life, work, family, and society increasingly. A year through the most densely populated country in the world.
Anyone in the West need only rethink their (first) Trump presidency – everyone in those days felt like they were living under Trump, thanks to the news media’s obsession with the most powerful man in the world and Twitter’s existence as a bully – to remember what life was like in the country He is trying to deal with a global pandemic. Masks, social distancing, the danger of communal living, such as in residential homes for seniors, and the lockdowns that have transformed our lives and businesses into the hybrid model we have today.
Now imagine what the restrictions were Start has been filed. This is China.
the end of the rope?
So, it is understandable, some Chinese people’s resentment is strong, and it is likely that the government’s firm and unenthusiastic policies to completely eradicate Covid-19 from China are affecting their last nerve.
But it is quite arguable that the protests in Beijing and Shanghai would not have found the flashpoint had it not been for the events at the Foxconn iPhone factory in Zhengzhou.
That factory, which normally has a workforce of 300,000, produces iPhones for the world, has been missed for months, with its workforce living and working on site, and any cases of Covid referred to quarantine facilities on the premises.
Those cases – with the most recent outbreak in October, and information about how difficult it is to access this outbreak – have seen dramatic footage emerge of workers desperately trying to flee the factory, even as they try to scale the perimeter fence. Unfortunately, images of prisons or concentration camps abound.
Remember the veteran
The Chinese government’s announcement last week that it was “requiring” military veterans, who “remain in the service of the Communist Party,” to come to work at the Zhengzhou factory, thus undergoing a factory bubble for an indefinite period to ensure production shortfalls are corrected, looks increasingly grim as events unfold. .
Quite apart from the isolation and potential risks of Covid, there has been great skepticism about whether veterans will necessarily have the stamina to work demanding iPhones work shifts, with reports predicting grim accounts of the number of those who showed up to work likely never leave the factory alive.
These measures — put in place by the Chinese Communist government to help a Taiwanese construction company (Foxconn) make products for an American company (Apple), in a move that usually defies political logic — showed how important it is for China to do so. Maintain a healthy supply relationship with Apple for the time being. Mac and iPhone maker is currently born about 17% of its revenue From China, but clearly centered on relations outside China in 2022.
This is in itself partly due to the massive inconvenience of China’s coronavirus policy, but also in large part due to economic pressure coming from the Biden-Harris White House, specifically to discourage American companies from trading in technology and chips with China. .
Protest without protest
If these moves inadvertently (or deliberately?) lead to a change of president in China, the dice will be loaded as to the direction chosen by the next president – to appease US economic protectionism, or to make a major geopolitical move focused on China. , such as the invasion of Taiwan.
But surely, the events in “iPhone City”, the Zhengzhou Foxconn factory, were the first to break the dam of silent suffering in China due to the current zero Covid rules.
In a satire on safety, some recent protesters in Beijing and Shanghai grabbed blank pieces of paper, acknowledging the general atmosphere of censorship in China — they weren’t critical of the government in any way, but the manifesto they are. Made huge and deafening.
Anti-Covid protests have seen police in Shanghai make several arrests so far, and cordon off streets.
Meanwhile, in Beijing, hundreds of peaceful demonstrators gathered to sing the national anthem (another way to protest without protesting), and to listen to speeches.
There have also been protests in Chengdu, and in the central cities of Xi’an and Wuhan – the latest known to be where Covid originated nearly three years ago.
While anti-Covid measures were already making life and business very difficult for companies inside China, Western companies with business interests there will be looking very carefully at the Chinese government’s next moves, to see if it is one of the world’s largest economic superpowers – and very much. In particular, it’s become one of their technology and manufacturing hubs — a very toxic place to continue investing.
This consideration may be more precisely at the heart of Apple itself, as the longer the Zhengzhou factory remains a hotspot for Covid discontent, the more likely it is that Apple will find itself associated with labor practices that could be seen as inhumane.
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